Students, Barred From Agency Program During Semester, Protest Ministry's New Restrictions on Educational Trips

Education Ministry rules restricting educational trips abroad has rankled one group of high schoolers who were planning a trip later this year.

The students, from a high school in the North, are part of a Young Ambassadors delegation organized by the Jewish Agency. They are demanding that the ministry ease its restrictions so that their trip can go ahead as planned in late December.

"Beyond classroom learning on one subject or another, the school system is also responsible for inculcating Zionist values and love of country, and that's exactly what we are hoping to do on this delegation," states Nitzan Faraj, an 11th-grader.

A year ago, following a series of Haaretz reports about trips by Tel Aviv elementary schoolers to Jewish educational institutions in Los Angeles, senior Education Ministry officials decided to ban overseas travel by students on school days.

The decision does not apply to trips to concentration camps in Poland, or to trips to overseas educational competitions. It mainly affects delegations seeking to travel overseas as part of the Jewish Agency's "Partnership 2000" project, which links Israeli towns with Jewish communities in the U.S.

As part of the Young Ambassadors program, 15 high-school students aged 15 to 17 would visit a Jewish community in Palm Beach, Florida.

"The trip's goal is to represent the values of Zionism and the state of Israel, and to spread them among young people in an American Jewish community so that they turn into our ambassadors in the Diaspora," the delegation wrote to Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar.

The Education Ministry responded, "There is nothing stopping these students from going overseas as part of the delegation, so long as their 12 days abroad do not come at the expense of school days.

"The students can, for instance, travel during the Hanukkah vacation ... The Ministry's policy is to make sure students learn at school."